FAITHFUL LIVING: Make joyful noises but listen too

The first time I saw her she looked like a bear cub to me. Tiny brown eyes. A thick black coat. Solidly built and sitting off to the side of her littermates in the position of a little Buddha.

“Yeah, she’s a purebred black lab. But since we’re friends, I’ll only charge you $100,” my friend volunteered.

I was thrilled and privately considered the future with relish. My husband would slide our dog kennel into the back of his truck and with a whistle she would hop in, ready for a hunting adventure. She’d patiently sit by his side, flush out birds, trot alongside him or gently hold game birds in her mouth — whatever the command. She would be comely, smart, loyal, eager for the hunt, and a dependable family pet — what with the gentle temperament associated with her breed.

I wrote the check and eagerly picked up this puppy with the sizeable paws and loppy ears, who quickly nestled her nose into my neck as I walked her out to the car, then curled up in my son’s lap during the ride home. And while her purchase had been agreed upon, my husband would be returning home from a business trip that evening and be greeted by the puppy he’d been considering for weeks.

That was four years ago and today the little bear weights about as much as my 11-year-old son and does not need to hear “Lilly!” to draw her near, for she has no desire whatsoever to venture far from us. As am matter of fact, sleeping beside my computer desk works well for her, but pushing her way between my legs or sitting directly on top of my feet where she can lean is even better if I’m standing.

And hunting? Not on your life. Shotguns are loud and jolting and dead game birds fill a dog’s mouth with annoying feathers. She much prefers her role as man’s best friend.

It’s a role that has made her a star. But we have awarded her another minor part as well: She’s the family jester and she earned the title the day those droopy ears suddenly gathered up and a sizeable spot on her tongue turned black. When her tail began curling during a wag and a heavy undercoat formed when the weather cooled, our $100 purebred lab became the chow mix that completely won our hearts and taught us that pure love is rarely refined. In fact, it can be downright goofy. In our case it continually licks the air in delighted anticipation and runs in circles when you return home. It never minds when all you have to give is a quick tummy rub with the bottom of your foot and refuses to bark, choosing instead to lick everything within reach, including the air.

And so it was, the evening this week when God saw fit to slightly quench a parched Western Washington with a minor rainstorm, that Lilly stepped beyond the best friend and jester roles to became a hero, instead. It all started when I was roused from a deep sleep by the sound of raindrops and distant thunder and what? Is that Lilly — barking? That can’t be! I thought to myself as I pressed my ear against the screen of our bedroom window to listen as carefully as possible.

It was, indeed, our Lilly … barking in regular intervals and jumping against the dog run fence out back. Sliding into our jeans and grabbing flashlights, my husband and I hurried outside into the dark and the moisture to discover our golden retriever — Lilly’s beloved canine companion — wedged neck first in the gate and choking.

“Darn dog!” my husband hollered as the thunder grew louder and our combined fear increased. “I’ll pull the gate out down here and you push his head back inside the run!”

There were a few tense moments and the nearby animals seemed to understand the danger. Lilly silently stood nearby without her customary licking. The horses thundered our way and abruptly stopped behind us to watch in sustained curiosity. Bolstered by the crowd we pushed Jacob the retriever out of danger, opened the gate, and moved our beloved wimps into the garage, to sleep away from that scary thunder.

It was that bark — the one we almost never hear — that prompted the rescue and speaks to me today as I ponder the choice to make some noise. Are there times in my life when I simply speak way too much and those around me stop listening because they have heard it all before? Do I quiet myself regularly enough to tune in to God’s wisdom — so when I do have something to say it is worth listening to? Is there saving grace in my words or a painful bite to my bark?


Fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff,

then nudge me when I’ve said enough.

-- Wisdom from an unknown source

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

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